Arizona Basketball

Byrne likes direction of Arizona Wildcats athletics but knows of room for improvement



Greg Byrne

Greg Byrne

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Catch up on Steve Rivera’s reports at

Full work days are common for Arizona Wildcats athletic director Greg Byrne, who is in the middle of his fifth year on the job. News broke this week that he must find a new baseball coach in the coming days — or weeks — with Andy Lopez’s retirement after 14 years as the Arizona Wildcats’ head coach.

“It’ll take as long as it takes me to find the right guy,” Bryne said when asked about the time frame to find Lopez’s replacement. “Ninety percent of my time is spent on that.”

Byrne will be on the road this weekend in search of that “right guy”. That is what’s ahead. What’s behind him is a nine-month mixed bag of favorable results from a university that saw its two top sports — football and men’s basketball — excel, but some of the others register but a blip.

“I like what’s happening, but I don’t think there isn’t an athletic department in the country that won’t say there’s room for improvement,” said Byrne. “We certainly fall into that category.”

“From a football and men’s basketball standpoint, we’re going at a very high level. We’ve invested in those sports significantly because we have to be strong in those to be able to have opportunities to have success in our other sports.”

Byrne still believes in women’s basketball coach Niya Butts, whose team was just 10-20 last season and 3-15 in the Pac-12. The previous season it was 5-25 and 1-17.

“We need to get better,” he said. “I really like Niya. If I had a daughter, I’d have her play for Niya. I’m a believer you change coaches when it’s the right thing for the long-term success of the program and not based off one year or two years. She’ll be the first to tell you we need to be better. too.”


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Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino released a book late last year about the pertinent stories behind what has made Arizona basketball what it is today. It is a must-read for any college basketball fan. Please contact Rivera by e-mail to inquire about buying a copy.


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Byrne’s predecessor, Jim Livengood, was responsible for hiring Lopez and Miller, two of his best moves as Arizona’s athletic director.

“Andy Lopez is one of the classiest coaches/people I have ever been around,” Livengood told on Monday. “Nobody treats people better than Andy. He’s a true legend in college baseball and a terrific friend.”


Until the NBA draft next month, former Arizona Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell said he’ll continue to work on “pick-and-roll stuff,” his ball-handling and his shooting.


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“If I become a knockdown shooter, making open shots, it will elevate my game,” he said.

He then adds: “It’s not like my jumper is broke, but there is always room for improvement. The good thing is it can always get better.”

“I’m not the guy to decide (what’s next),” he said. “I can only do what I’m capable of doing, and that’s work hard every day … and I’m going to continue to do that every day.”

During a recent workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, McConnell said he has the ability to make the three-point shot at the next level and that he can be a leader NBA teams are in search of.

Read more of Rivera’s interview with Byrne at

Steve Rivera is a longtime Tucson sports journalist was the Arizona basketball beat reporter for the Tucson Citizen for almost 20 years. He presently is a writer for He also is a guest analyst on KCUB (1290-AM) and editor-in-chief of Tucson-based Tail Winds magazine.

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